CELEBRATING CANADA’S LGBTQ2
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
LAGANJA ESTRANJA IS A WERK IN PROGRESS THE YEAR IN 10 WORDS OR LESS (OR JUST A LITTLE MORE)
MEET THE MUXES
MEXICO’S THIRD GENDER 1
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NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
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inmagazine.ca PUBLISHER Patricia Salib GUEST EDITOR Christopher Turner ART DIRECTOR Georges Sarkis COPY EDITOR Ruth Hanley SENIOR COLUMNISTS Paul Gallant, Jumol Royes CONTRIBUTORS Phil Bessimer, Bobby Box, Adriana Ermter, Courtney Hardwick, Jeremy HS, Karen Kwan, Paul Langill, Nelson Morales, Ivan Otis, Brian Phillips, Fredsonn Silva Aguda, Yogendra Singh, Julia Valente, Doug Wallace, Casey Williams, Adam Zivo DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND SPONSORSHIPS Bradley Blaylock CONTROLLER Jackie Zhao
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“I want everybody to be on the lookout next month for Nasvember,” openly gay rapper Lil Nas X said at the virtual Billboard Music Awards in October. “It’s going to go crazy. In 2021, I’m dropping the greatest album of all time. I love you goodnight.”
November / December 2020 INFRONT
06 | THE MYSTIQUE OF THE GAY HAIRSTYLIST Unpacking the allure, the stereotype and the magnetism
14 | THE YEAR IN 10 WORDS OR LESS (OR JUST A LITTLE MORE) Ten of the most memorable and iconic words and catchphrases that defined 2020
08 | HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT CAR TIRES Make sure your car’s tires match the activity
16 | LAGANJA ESTRANJA: WERK IN PROGRESS How the pandemic has helped the performer explore her non-binary identity
09 | YOUTH IN PROFILE: ALEXANDRE E. BELNAVIS Meet the trans artist who is giving back to the community that has always supported him 10 | TAKE CARE The self-care strategies you need to weather through life 11 | FLU SHOT SAFETY DURING COVID-19: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW This year, more than ever, we need to help protect our loved ones – so get the flu shot 12 | LGBTQ+ ABUSE IN SCHOOLS IS REAL The alarming survey results are in: most LGBTQ+ students face homophobic or transphobic abuse 13 | A CONVERSATION WITH LETSstopAIDS FOUNDER SHAMIN MOHAMED JR. Young Canadians are working together for meaningful local action
20 | QUEENS OF THE ROUND TABLE: THE SEX LIVES OF DRAG QUEENS IN chats with three fresh-faced and untucked drag queens about the intimate details of their sex lives
44 | THE TROUBLE WITH LABELS There’s a power in naming things and in not naming things 46 | POWDER POOF How to hit the slopes at the annual Whistler Pride & Ski Festival – and hit the après-ski even harder 50 | FLASHBACK: NOVEMBER 17, 1901 IN LGBTQ HISTORY Dance of the 41: Police raid a Mexican drag ball FASHION 34 | TURNmeUP Ready for a new winter season of serious lewks?
22 | CORBIN COLBY CELEBRATES BEING BLACK AND GAY He’s loving the skin he’s in 24 | MEET THE MUXES, MEXICO’S THIRD GENDER In the southern state of Oaxaca, there are three genders: male, female and muxe. What can we learn from that? 30 | THE LGBTQ MOVEMENT FALTERED AND WE’RE STARTING TO SEE THE PRICE LGBTQ acceptance is eroding even among young people. What are we going to do about it?
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The Mystique Of The Gay Hairstylist Unpacking the allure, the stereotype and the magnetism By Adriana Ermter
“I think that the most important thing a woman can have – next to talent, of course – is her hairdresser.” —Joan Crawford
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
For Crawford, that stylist was Sydney Guilaroff, MGM’s chief hairdresser.
for saying, “If you’re going to be a star, you have to look like a star, and I never go out unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star. If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.” At Guilaroff’s hands, Crawford always looked the part.
Despite her sentiments, however, the girl-next-door style became a If rumour is gospel, in the early 1930s Crawford plucked Guilaroff coveted look. Its appeal started in the ’70s with Christie Brinkley’s from a chi-chi salon in New York City and deposited him in long and loose strands, and was cemented in 1993 via Jennifer Hollywood, where she’d secured his gig at the behemoth studio. Aniston’s character Rachel on Friends. The now-iconic “Rachel” Crawford was under contract with MGM at the time and believed coif is credited to Chris McMillan, Aniston’s long-time hairstylist. only a male hairstylist, particularly one who was gay, knew how to make her look desirable to men. Guilaroff didn’t disappoint: It seems Aniston shares the same sensibility about hairstylists as not Crawford, nor the other MGM starlets, including Claudette Crawford. At the 2018 InStyle Awards, Aniston called McMillan Colbert, Lucille Ball and Judy Garland. He defined each of them her “dearest friend,” her “brother from another mother” and the with their signature styles of baby-doll bangs, fire-engine red waves “husband who will never marry me because he’s gay,” before and Wizard of Oz braids, respectively. presenting him with the Hairstylist of the Year Award on stage. Currently, the two can be seen posing, coifing and hugging in tiny Crawford eventually left MGM for Warner Bros. (where she won little squares on their Instagram pages. Of course, Aniston’s hair an Oscar for her performance in Mildred Pierce), but her respect is flawless with never a hair out of place. for Guilaroff’s magic touch never wavered. She became renowned 6
“I think that the most important thing a woman can have – next to talent, of course – is her hairdresser.” —Joan Crawford
Recognition for a blossoming industry This positive impact has strengthened in recent years, encouraging younger generations to enter the professional beauty industry. According to a report by Industry Canada, there are 15,635 beauty salons across Canada, including Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nova Scotia. In addition, the Canadian Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CCTFA) reports that beauty in Canada is a $9.5 billion a year industry, growing by 0.7 per cent a year with ample room for opportunity, especially in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, where populations are higher.
“The hair salon is the place women go to talk freely to each other and to their hairstylists about things they may not say in other public places or around their husbands,” affirms Tyana Nichole, a portfolio artist with L’Oréal Professionnel’s Canadian artistic team and a hairstylist, colour expert and makeup artist at Brush Salon in Vancouver. “I am a transgender woman and started my career before my transition, so I experienced this belief. I’m not sure I would say that gay men can cut, colour and style women better than anyone else, but I do think that LGBTQ people have a special gift. People who have endured a world of oppression “I am absolutely blessed to be involved in such an incredible seem to manifest that destructive energy into something creative.” industry and to be able to work safely, support myself and create a wonderful life where I am free and welcome and celebrated,” says An explosion of creativity Nichole. “The beauty industry as a whole deserves applause for For decades this creative energy has been channelled into hair. being a home for individuals who just want to express themselves, While the ’20s pin curls and the ’30s cropped bangs are certainly be themselves and celebrate together no matter what race, age noteworthy, the art of hairstyling gained real momentum in the or gender.” ’50s with high-profile stylists like Kenneth Battelle and his A-list clients. Battelle not only created Jacqueline Kennedy’s bouffant, Public awards – such as the Emmy’s Outstanding Hairstyling for “he also cut it off and into Jackie’s famous bobbed style the day a Series, the Oscar’s Best Makeup and Hairstyling category and before she went to Dallas and the president was shot,” says Martin the American Professional Beauty Association’s North American Hillier, the Canadian national art director for Electric London and Hairstyling competition and awards ceremony – have helped co-owner of The Lounge Hair Studio in Vancouver. “He also did further this sense of recognition and community. These awards, Marilyn Monroe’s hairdo the night of JFK’s birthday party, when along with hair-based magazines like Canada’s Salon Magazine she sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President.’” It was the ’60s. and Canadian Hairdresser, have been pivotal in educating public perception of gay male and female stylists’ worth by reinforcing With the ’60s came the counterculture revolution’s new social their value through published photographs and interviews crediting norms and a desire for change, individuality and self-expression, their cuts, colour and influence. complete with how women wore their hair courtesy of the stylists standing behind their chairs. Embracing creativity with a new and “Good hair is about your talent and your creativity,” says German. untethered abandon, these stylists replaced conservative poodle cuts, “Your sexual orientation has nothing to do with success or failure pompadours and bouffants as fast as Vidal Sassoon could pump in the hair industry. To say gay people are more creative than the out short cuts with sharp edges and clean lines. The hair salon may average person is a generalization that is simply not true. I am have been a haven for its clientele, but it was transforming into a a gay black male and, personally, my path has been filled with safe space for gay stylists to express themselves freely. people who have been exceptionally supportive. For creativity to flourish, we need all kinds of people to be involved in the hair “In my early salon experiences, there were more non-gay people industry, bringing different perspectives and their full imagination working as hairstylists than gay,” says Justin German, a consulting to hair, style and artistry.” stylist for Pantene and the co-owner of Bang Salon in Toronto. German, with 30 years spent wielding scissors, credits the hair Giving Crawford’s statement an updated and inclusive spin, the salon with being “the first work environment where I felt completely phrase could now be interpreted as “Life is more beautiful once safe to be who I am.” you meet the right hairstylist.” ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.
Celebrities aren’t the only ones angling to align themselves with Thanks in part to the courage of openly gay hair legends of the their mane men or vocalize their ideal that the gay male stylist ’80s and ’90s, such as Christiaan Houtenbos (legendary stylist stands a head above other cutters and colourists. According to to Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Grace Jones) and Oribe Canales the US Professional Beauty Association, 88 per cent of women (legendary stylist to Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and believe that all gay hairstylists better understand women and are Cindy Crawford), a new level of acceptance and normalcy was more creative than your average person and, if the woman is lucky, fuelled within the salon structure. It became inclusive, woke, and will become their deeply rooted confidant. Some women even hope a celebration of all hairstylists on the basis of their talent rather their relationship with their hairstylist will rival connections with than their sexual orientation. their friends and/or their significant others. Odd, to be sure, and yet, considering the safety net of having a gay male hairstylist as “The early ’90s was one of the first moments that being gay was confidant, coupled with their creative abilities, this theory is not celebrated,” affirms German. “I was working on Yonge Street at the a surprise. first Civello [hair salon] and I met a lot of incredible queer people. I was introduced to a music scene and a fashion scene that was thriving and absolutely electrifying. I made instant connections with creative people that I still work with and keep in touch with to this day. It was a community of people who collaborated with each other and elevated each other.”
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT CAR TIRES Make sure your car’s tires match the activity By Casey Williams
I bet when you get ready to go for a run, you put on your slick-soled loafers, right? How about when you’re off to the club: do you bust out your best flip-flops? No, of course not, but we make virtually the same silly decisions when it comes to our cars. When our ride needs practical tread, too many of us go out and buy the cool low-profile tires and slap them on sexy 19-inch rims. You may get away with that vanity in dry summer conditions, but just wait for the roads to become covered with snow and ice, and you’ll realize the error of your ways as you slip and slide. Likewise, put snow tires on your sports car for a run through the mountains to feel your car slop through corners. Let’s avoid all of that. I’ve been there. There was a tow truck involved. It wasn’t pretty.
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
Here’s the run-down on what types of tires you should select for your ride: All-season tires These are probably the best choice for most driving situations. They’re commonly found on mid-size sedans and compact cars, because they do not excel in any one area but handle most driving conditions reasonably well. These tires also tend to be lower rollingresistance, which increases fuel economy and wear life.
Summer tires Engineered for ultimate performance, these tires have grooves to shed water and avoid hydroplaning, but are shaped for maximum contact with pavement. Their softer rubber compounds maximize grip, but wear faster and harden in frigid temps. Lower profiles allow more road shock to work the suspension and reach the cabin.
Winter tires Most of my test cars come with winter tires during the cold months – and with good reason. They’re differentiated with deeper grooves and sharper sides to gnaw through snow and ice. Rubber compounds are engineered to remain soft in cold temperatures, which unfortunately decreases their effectiveness in hot weather.
If your daily drive is mostly on paved and plowed roads, all-season tires are the best for everyday use. They balance a comfortable ride with competent handling. Summer tires should be relegated to the warm months, while snow tires should be used only in winter. To optimize performance, keep two sets of tires and trade them seasonally.
Off-road tires These are the bigger and wider version of snow tires, sharing many of their properties. Installed mostly on trucks and SUVs, these tires have deep grooves, sharp edges and thick sidewalls to absorb off-road rough and dig into mud and rocks. Also like winter tires, they are not the best choice for on-pavement performance and handling.
Let me be a lesson. One winter, I was testing a new front-drive luxury sedan. Usually, front-drive cars will drive through a blizzard without putting a wheel wrong. Unfortunately, it came with summer tires, and when a little snow fell, I couldn’t get up a small incline to exit my driveway. Eventually, I enlisted a tow truck. How embarrassing! Consider carefully what slaps the pavement beneath your prized carriage.
CASEY WILLIAMS is a contributing writer for Gaywheels.com. He contributes to the New York-based LGBT magazine Metrosource and the Chicago Tribune. He and his husband live in Indianapolis, where Williams contributes videos and reviews to wfyi.org, the area’s PBS/NPR station.
By Courtney Hardwick
Born and raised in Montreal, 21-year-old Alexandre E. Belnavis is an Afro-Latinx, trans artist and activist who is already making a mark on the Montreal LGBTQ+ community. As the queer and trans outreach coordinator at AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM), he’s working to eliminate transphobia from the organization. He’s also a board member at Project 10, an organization that works to promote the personal, social, sexual and mental well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex and questioning (2LGBTQ+) youth. In his spare time, he’s probably re-watching Euphoria, and looking for ways to use art to communicate his own struggles and help other LGBTQ+ youth in the process. How did you get involved with Project 10? After the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, I wanted to volunteer or work at an LGBTQ+ organization, and I found out Project 10 had a summer camp. I was 17 at the time, and going to P10 as a participant was the first time I had the chance to be in a space around other queer folks. I was someone who was very isolated socially, and P10 really helped me break that feeling of isolation. They helped me move out of a toxic home situation and go through the process of changing my name, and they also provided my first binders for free. It was a safe space I really needed when I was that age and the more time I spent there, the more I started giving back, and now I’m a regular volunteer. What is your role with P10 now? Before COVID-19, I was going in one or two times a week to help out with little things like organizing clothing swaps, cooking, and just being there to talk to younger participants about whatever they wanted. I’ve also been on the board since 2017 and I get to help make big decisions for the direction of the organization.
How important was it for you to have the opportunity to spend time with other queer and trans people? Before, I had never been in a space where my pronouns were respected and my identity was respected. Just being around other people who know what you’re going through and don’t treat you like the odd one because of it, it really helped me be a lot more confident in my trans identity. And my confidence has helped a lot of other trans folks around me because often, in my life, I have been the first trans person people knew. Without P10, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to also help others. What is one of your proudest moments so far? One of my biggest accomplishments so far was when my colleagues at P10 nominated me for an award for all the work I’ve done for the organization. It was incredible to feel appreciated and know that my efforts are really helping people. It made me feel confident that I’m headed in the right direction, and I want to continue giving back to the Montreal LGBTQ+ community as much as I can. Do you have any role models? Troye Sivan was my safe space as a kid. He had a YouTube channel and I was 13 at the time when I first started watching him. He was a queer man who was exploring what it means to be queer and trying to be confident in that. Seeing someone else going through the same things, even though I didn’t know at the time what I was going through, that really helped me. What are some of your plans for the future? I’m an artist and I hope to have a career in art and theatre. I love art, acting and music, and it has been such a big part of my life since I was a kid. I would like to combine my activism with my art and share my life experiences through visual art and writing.
(L-R): Julien Johnson, Manon Massé and Alexandre E. Belnavis at the 2018 Gala des prix Leviers brought to you by ROCAJQ
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COURTNEY HARDWICK is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared online at AmongMen, Complex Canada, Elle Canada and TheBolde.
Youth in Profile: Alexandre E. Belnavis
Meet the trans artist who is giving back to the community that has always supported him
HEALTH & WELLNESS
TAKE CARE The self-care strategies you need to weather life By Karen Kwan
You hear a lot about self-care, and it’s not just about taking a bubble bath (although it can be for some of us). Self-care encompasses anything you do that helps to nurture your physical, mental and emotional health. And as you may imagine, the stress of living through this pandemic has increased the need to practise self-care. “Just by being a human being in the world, we are challenged by demands and by other situational, interpersonal and internal stressors that take psychological energy from us. And the best way to navigate the world is to make sure we have fuel in the tank,” says Teri Sota, a registered psychologist in Toronto. “The idea is that when stretched too thin, our bodies and our psyche give us signs that our bandwidth is less; psychological symptoms start to emerge and people find they’re not dealing with challenges in the same way.” You might find that your tolerance for frustration is diminished, or that you’re more easily overwhelmed, she explains. To best manage life stresses, regularly engage in self-care. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to your own self-care practice. Self-care is not about checking off goals “It’s not about a personal coaching goal,” says Sota – it’s about checking into what your intuitive self is telling you is lacking. To start, she says, you can look to the basics: getting a good restorative night’s sleep, nutrition, and exercise. NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
Start by regularly checking in with yourself Ask yourself what you need for yourself today. “Don’t be overly ambitious about it. What do you sense is missing?” says Sota. Remember not to be a perfectionist about it: it should not be a to-do list. Spend time with people you care about “We are social and relational beings,” says Sota. “Spending time with people we feel safe and engaged with helps to build our cushion, and research has shown it can boost our immune systems.”
Self-care should not feel selfish or indulgent It’s important that you approach your self-care with the right mindset. Sota says you should be protective of the time you use to practise self-care, and engage in it with the awareness that it’s up to you to take care of yourself. ‘If I’m not taking care of me, I can’t be who I want to be’ is the mindset you should have, she adds, as it sends a message to yourself that impacts your self-worth and self-esteem. Down-regulating is just as important as cardio workouts You want to be in the sweet spot when it comes to your nervous system: that is, not in red-alert mode and not despondent, explains Sota. Do things that activate oxytocin (also referred to as the love or cuddle hormone). Think things like spending time with your dog, your baby, being out in nature, practising meditation or yoga. She suggests figuring out your own way of being contemplative to help boost your sense of vitality.
KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Flu Shot Safety During COVID-19:
What You Need To Know
This year, more than ever, we need to help protect our loved ones – so get the flu shot We are entering a flu season unlike any other. With cooler weather on the way, health professionals are on high alert anticipating what this year’s flu (or influenza) season might look like on top of a second wave of COVID-19. The Canadian medical system is bracing for an onslaught of testing and hospitalizations, with provinces and territories ordering a collective 22 per cent more doses of the flu vaccine than last year. The question is, will more people get vaccinated? It’s easy to think of the reasons why not: for many of us who have been physically distancing since March, we haven’t had so much as a sniffle in months. So why risk a trip to a crowded waiting room, when we’re staying away from people anyway? This year, especially, we can’t risk complacency around the flu. Last year, only 42 per cent of the Canadian population was vaccinated against the flu. To help protect the ones we love, we must do better, simply because there is more at stake than ever. As front line staff and essential workers at Rexall, we have taken the responsibility to step up and encourage every person who comes to our pharmacy to get a flu shot, while promoting that all Rexall employees should receive their flu vaccination as well. With similar symptoms to COVID-19, a flu epidemic could overwhelm our testing centres and drive large-scale hospitalizations as well as shutdowns of our schools – not to mention the knock-on effects to our economy. If the goal of our country’s pandemic measures has largely been to control the burden on our healthcare system, flu
vaccination is an important step in this plan. And we all have a role to play. Rexall Pharmacy, a trusted ally in our communities for over 100 years, has been stepping up to ensure that administering the flu vaccine is as safe as possible during these challenging times, by introducing additional precautions to protect Canadians. “At Rexall, our top priority is ensuring that every patient is cared for. That’s why we’ve taken extra steps this year – from physical distancing, to online scheduling of appointments – to keep Canadians healthy and well,” says Nicolas Caprio, the president of Rexall Pharmacy. Rexall is offering the flu vaccine at all of its Canadian locations this year, but with a few key enhanced safety protocols in place. In addition to COVID precautions – such as limiting the number of people in the store, requiring masks or face coverings, and regularly disinfecting high-traffic areas – Rexall has evolved its approach to vaccination. While the pharmacies will still accept walk-ins, they will encourage people to book their flu shot online at Rexall.ca or through the Be Well app. This digital scheduling tool, powered by MedMe, will enable patients to schedule their vaccinations in advance, allowing for a steady flow of patients without overcrowding the stores. Following all the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee of Immunization, Rexall will also have additional staff on site to ensure that physical distancing rules are respected. Now more than ever, we all have to do our part to help protect each other, and our healthcare system, by getting the flu vaccine. While there is no vaccine for COVID-19 yet, there is one for the flu. And it is essential that we all get vaccinated in as safe a manner as possible.
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LGBTQ+ Abuse In Schools Is Real The alarming survey results are in: most LGBTQ+ students face homophobic or transphobic abuse
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
Just about all students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ Almost 97 per cent of respondents stated that they had heard community have heard offensive remarks about their sexuality the phrase “no homo” at school, while more than 95 per or gender identity made on school grounds. Just under 99 per cent reported hearing homophobic terms such as “dyke” and cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students aged “faggot.” More than two thirds (69%) said they had experienced between 13 and 21 reported hearing disparaging comments verbal harassment because of their sexual orientation, while about their sexuality or gender identity, according to a new more than half (57%) said they had also been called names study published by GLSEN, an American LGBT+ education or threatened because of their gender expression. One in advocacy group. 10 (11%) of LGBT+ students surveyed said they had been physically assaulted or “punched, kicked [or] injured with Almost 92 per cent of the students surveyed said the remarks a weapon” because of their sexuality, the report noted. Just had made them feel “distressed,” according to the 2019 National under 10 per cent reported the same experiences due to their School Climate Survey, which surveyed 16,700 LGBT+ students gender expression, it added. between April and August last year. “This is a very significant wake-up call about how the progress Discussing LGBT+ issues in schools has become a global we’ve won is directly under attack,” says Eliza Byard, executive cultural flashpoint, with some parents in Canada and Britain director of GLSEN (formerly the Gay, Lesbian & Straight last year protesting against the inclusion of sexuality and Education Network). “Where we are now is so different from gender identity in the revised and updated school curriculums. where we were 20, 25 years ago in terms of how better things are. In fact, the GLSEN report found homophobia was rife within On the other hand, where we are is clearly still unacceptable.” educational establishments.
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A Conversation With LetsStopAIDS Founder Shamin Mohamed Jr. Young Canadians are working together for meaningful local action
LetsStopAIDS is a youth-driven charity that focuses on HIV prevention and knowledge exchange. The Canadian charity was founded in 2004, by the then-15-year-old Shamin Mohamed Jr., and continues to educate and inspire youth across the country (and the globe!) to take action. We sat down with Mohamed to talk about LetsStopAIDS and their programs, as well as Canada’s largest upcoming youthHIV conference. How did LetsStopAIDS begin? When I was 15 years old I went to my principal and told her I wanted to start LetsStopAIDS, and instead of being supportive, she said, “Are you going to start a scam or something?” This leaked out into the media, and eventually made its way to Bill Clinton and Bill Gates at the AIDS Conference. Since then, LetsStopAIDS has grown into Canada’s largest youth-HIV charity focusing on knowledge exchange and HIV prevention. We remain a volunteer-driven charity, with 300+ members across 21 countries. What types of programming or services do you offer? LetsStopAIDS is ‘glocal.’ We collaborate locally, whether it’s in downtown Toronto or rural townships in Dududu, South Africa. Our projects focus on youth leadership, meaningful engagement, and storytelling. For example, in March 2020 as the world entered a global pandemic, LetsStopAIDS launched HeyCOVID19, a 25+-language platform dedicated to providing accurate, shareable public health information about COVID-19. This entire project was brought to life in six days by more than 60 volunteers in 13 countries.
skills necessary to carry out sustainable initiatives. Since 2014, roughly a quarter of new HIV diagnoses were youth and this has been on a steady rise. Thanks to the support of ViiV Healthcare, NoTimeToWait will be Canada’s largest youthHIV conference focusing on youth leadership and grassroots activism, specifically focusing on Canadian issues. What role does technology and innovation play in connecting and supporting people living with HIV? The second we get comfortable, something is wrong. It means we aren’t connected to who we collaborate with. When things are running too smoothly, it means we aren’t being challenged, so we need to ask more questions. We know Zoom calls can get boring – that’s why we partnered with Hopin to create a unique, beautiful digital space for NoTimeToWait. We also joined forces with local designers across Canada to create a mail-out kit that will include musthave items to ‘survive’ a two-day virtual conference. What type of impact are you hoping comes from NoTimeToWait? Let’s clear the elephant in the room – I don’t think NoTimeTo Wait will be a fix-all solution for all of Canada’s youth-HIV issues. But I am confident it will develop fresh faces as ambassadors and leaders, like the then-15-year-old me, to create their own local or national projects. NoTimeToWait is the stepping stone for young Canadians to work together for meaningful local action with others living with HIV. I can’t wait.
Why is it important to have a youth-focused space for people living with HIV? Because regardless of your gender, social class or religion, there is a biological commonality connecting young people. And when we put these individuals together (even without speaking the same language), we develop something beautiful. Ever been to a conference or event where you’ve felt out of place? Chances are you’d gravitate to someone who’s closer to your age or someone you may be able to relate to. If we do not create these spaces, we are stifling the youthHIV community, which creates greater anxiety, depression and stigma, which could lead to less innovation. And as we know, innovation, particularly when it comes to treatment and prevention, is an integral part of ending HIV. Tell us about NoTimeToWait. Why is this conference important, and why now? NoTimeToWait brings young Canadians together to further their knowledge on HIV-related issues and develop the advocacy
LEARN MORE To follow LetsStopAIDS on Instagram, visit @LetsStopAIDS. NoTimeToWait will be held on November 21-22, and is open for registration at NoTimeToWait.ca. For more information, you can download an eBook on NoTimeToWait at http://qlll.co/NoTimeToWait.
THE IN 10 WORDS OR LESS
(OR JUST A LITTLE MORE) 10 of the most memorable and iconic words and catchphrases that defined 2020 By Jumol Royes
When it comes to a year that hit pause on all regularly scheduled programming, it’s pretty hard to sum it up in 10 words or less. From the COVID-19 crisis and cries for social justice, to Zoom calls and TikTok challenges, 2020 has been one for the history books. Who knows what the New Year will bring – but we’d be wise to prepare for a few plot twists. In the meantime, let’s look back at 10 of the most memorable and iconic words and catchphrases that defined a year we’ll not soon forget.
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
Pandemic Formerly relegated to the realms of Hollywood fiction and doomsday theorists, the word ‘pandemic’ became all too real this year when the coronavirus swept across the globe like a tsunami. Johns Hopkins University has recorded 34,986,505 confirmed cases worldwide… and counting. The outbreak will forever be remembered as an event that literally stopped the world in its tracks. Social/physical distancing Social distancing was one of the first public health measures put in place to help stem the spread of COVID-19. Now commonly referred to as ‘physical distancing’ (since ‘social distancing’ was found to be contributing to increased feelings of loneliness and isolation), the idea is to maintain a distance of two metres (or six feet) between yourself and others. We waved goodbye this year to hospitable handshakes, kismet kisses and warmhearted hugs. Speaking moistly When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a news conference back in April extolling the virtues of wearing a mask to protect others from the virus, his message went viral, but for all the wrong reasons. After saying, “It prevents you from breathing or speaking moistly on them,” he immediately regretted his choice of words, adding, “What a terrible image.” The internet had a field day with the PM’s remarks. Cue the memes. 14
Anti-Black and systemic racism This has been a year of racial reckoning, and everyone should familiarize themselves with two critically important terms that have emerged: anti-Black racism (described by Centennial College as “prejudice, attitudes, beliefs, stereotyping or discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement and colonization”), and systemic racism (or racism that is deeply embedded into a society’s institutions, systems and structures such as health care, education and criminal justice). And, yes, these are long-standing issues here in Canada. It’s not just an American problem.
Cancel culture Dictionary.com defines cancel culture as “the popular practice of withdrawing support from public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” Black Twitter users are credited with being among the first to cancel someone as a way of calling out their bad behaviour. Since then, the concept has gone mainstream. Some might argue it’s gone too far. While the debate rages on, there’s one thing brands like Equinox and Starbucks and celebrities like J.K. Rowling and Bryan Adams have in common: they’ve all been targets of cancel culture.
BIPOC The now-familiar acronym (which stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) is a term meant to acknowledge the fact that some people of colour are more severely impacted by systemic racism than others. While use of the term is appropriate at times, people (some LGBTQ2+ folks included) rarely enjoy being reduced to an abbreviated form of just one facet of their identity. Rule of thumb: be specific. If you’re talking about Black people (or specifically referencing gay men), say so. Karen A white woman calls the police on a Black man who is bird-watching in New York’s Central Park, after he asks her to leash her dog? She’s a Karen. Having a tantrum and throwing food out of a shopping cart after being told to wear a mask in a grocery store? That’s a Karen, too. It’s safe to say that labelling people as Karens is probably not the most productive way to have constructive conversations about race or COVID-19. Side note: Felicias everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. I don’t look thicc until I turn around, check The video-sharing social media app TikTok was on the tip of everyone’s tongues this year. The platform is best known for videos of people doing things like the Thicc Challenge (which consists of turning around to show off their best ass-ets, accompanied by a background track with the lyrics “Hey yo…I don’t look thicc until I turn around, check”). For videos of bootylicious guys getting in on the action, check out Thicc Tok on YouTube. You’re welcome. Pivot It’s not a competition, but if I had to choose a word of the year, ‘pivot’ would win, hands down. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pivoting so much lately I’m starting to feel like a prima donna ballerina doing pirouettes en pointe. If there’s one thing we’ve learned this year, it’s to expect the unexpected. So stay on your toes and be on the lookout for a few surprises.
Photo by Yogendra Singh
JUMOL ROYES is a Toronto-area storyteller, communications strategist and glass-half-full kinda guy. He writes about compassion, community, identity and belonging. His guilty pleasure is watching the Real Housewives. Follow him on Twitter at @Jumol and on Instagram at @jumolroyes.
Zoom I’d never heard of Zoom prior to this year (I’m a bit of a late adopter when it comes to technology). When the world went into lockdown, we needed a way to stay connected to colleagues at work, as well as family and friends, and Zoom seemed to provide the perfect solution. The video-conferencing app, which says it’s on a mission to “make video communications frictionless” by “empowering people to accomplish more,” has been valued at just shy of $130 billion USD, according to a recent report from CNBC. While everyone and their mother is busy Zooming these days, Zoom fatigue is also real.
Laganja Estranja Werk In Progress
How the pandemic has helped the performer explore her non-binary identity
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
By Bobby Box
From the moment she death-dropped into the Werk Room, Laganja Estranja (a.k.a. Jay Jackson) secured herself as a standout queen oozing with charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. But as we witnessed on the runway week after week, the judges soon chipped away at Laganja’s self-assurance, denouncing her slang-heavy speech as an act, for which she felt “very attacked.”
confessed. “I’m trying to not be that way. But at the end of the day, we all want to feel wanted, loved and touched, so I suppress that part of me – even though it’s the biggest and most important part – in order to fulfill a physical urge we need and/or want as humans.”
At the time, Laganja’s character was still in development. Now, six years later, she is a fully realized queen who is informing Jay’s own evolution.
Dating as non-binary has proven more difficult to navigate, which she chalks up to education. “Even though it’s in the public domain, I don’t think people understand what non-binary is. That makes it hard to find a partner, because now you’re exploring something that’s not popular or clear to them.”
During our Tuesday morning phone call, Laganja, sitting back with a blunt in sunny Los Angeles, shared that she identifies as non-binary, preferring the pronouns she/her. While she has never officially come out as NB, it is a somewhat recent development that’s been happening “slowly but surely.”
Since her identity fluctuates between male and female, Laganja’s found that she receives the most attention from bisexual and sexually fluid crowds. “I think there is a particular type of man who is attracted to transgender and/or non-binary individuals and I think those are the people who fetishize my drag persona,” she told me.
“There’s a level of comfortability and acceptance that I’ve had with myself thanks to the art form of drag,” she told IN. “I would have never considered myself as non-binary before drag, so it’s really taught me a lot about myself.”
“I’m a very hypersexual character, so I invite people to view me in that way,” she continued. “Maybe because I come across so sexual and confident in drag, that is what’s deterring people from asking me out? I don’t know, I ask myself these questions all the time. All I know is that I’m not finding any men who want to date me. None of that’s happening over here.”
Recognizing one’s gender identity is not without its challenges, and Laganja is still learning how to express herself sexually. “It’s weird that I put on the glam and feel super sexy, but take it off and not feel that way at all,” she explained, confessing she’s never had sex in drag. “It’s something that I want to do, but I’m sure once I do it I will realize that it is the worst idea ever,” she said. “Like, who the fuck wants to wear a hot wig when they have sex?” Laganja won’t disclose her gender identity to sexual partners, either. While these are merely casual acquaintances on apps right now (she doesn’t have a boyfriend or a friend-with-benefits at the moment), it’s something she hopes to change: “I just lie to them. They don’t know about Laganja or even that I’m feminine.” Before a hookup arrives, Laganja will go as far as to strip the house of any evidence of her drag persona. “It’s kind of sad, honestly,” she
In an effort to explore her non-binary identity out of drag, Laganja has been growing her hair and wearing dresses, and is considering getting acrylics. She’s found the pandemic an opportune time to discover herself, coming a long way from her teen years in Texas, when she believed it was “too gay to shave your legs.” Yet, despite the hardships and lessons that come with navigating her gender identity and expression, Laganja has never felt more complete. “I think being non-binary is really powerful. There is such a freedom that comes with not being tied down to the binary,” she said. “I will always keep exploring, but for now I really want to know how I feel most sexy,” she said nearing the end of our call, “because I think everybody should be able to describe themselves as sexy.”
BOBBY BOX is a writer and certified sex educator who has been published in, among others, Greatist, Playboy, The Advocate, NewNowNext, Them. and Askmen. He is Grindr’s sex columnist, and is very active on Instagram and Twitter. Follow him at @bybobbybox.
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
QUEENS OF THE ROUND TABLE: THE SEX LIVES OF DRAG QUEENS IN chats with three fresh-faced and untucked drag queens about the intimate details of their sex lives By Bobby Box
Between the wigs, the makeup, the heels, the breastplates, the performing and putting up with drunks on a nightly basis, a drag queen invests plenty of time, effort, money and patience to entertaining audiences while exuding sex and looking fierce AF. But does the fantasy remain after she sashays off stage, removes her sweaty hip pads and peels off the duct tape fastened to her scrotum?
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
To discuss the real sex lives of our community’s foremost entertainers, IN spoke with three fierce queens – RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Honey Davenport, Toronto’s Lucy Flawless and West Hollywood’s Salina Estitties – for an unfiltered glimpse into drag queens’ most intimate moments. When potential sexual partners find out you’re a drag queen, what is their general reaction? Honey Davenport: I think there is definitely some hesitation and a stigma attached for some people, but for the most part my experiences have been positive. After my season of RuPaul’s Drag Race began airing, Bob the Drag Queen told me, ‘Don’t be afraid to put your dick in a fan.’ At first I thought that sounded painful, but then I realized it was actually good advice. During the Season 11 tour, I changed my Grindr and Scruff name to ‘I Fuck My Fans.’ I felt like a rock star! Lucy Flawless: I keep my Instagram attached to my Grindr profile in hopes that it’ll weed out the bad ones, but it’s funny how many people don’t check before making contact. Often we’ll be elbowdeep in dick pics and dirty chat when I’m blocked, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, you finally clocked the Insta-link, dumbass.’ But I’d say the majority of people have neutral-positive reactions, though there are always some cases of extreme yes or extreme no (both are a turn-off for me). Just last week someone told me it was always their dream to have sex with a drag queen – that’s a big red flag. 20
I’ve also had men ask me to get into drag just to have sex with them and they don’t even wanna pay for it. Not going to happen! Salina Estitties: I believe most of the time there’s a stigma, but RuPaul’s Drag Race has helped normalize the concept of drag. Six years ago, I would have been absolutely terrified of tricks finding out I did drag. My own internalized homophobia got the best of me when this happened one too many times. I even quit drag for a couple of months to sort these issues out. But through the help and understanding of my sex worker friends, I’ve learned to embrace who I am. I think as a collective, our community is ‘woke’ enough and accepting enough to separate the two, but I also live in West Hollywood. I know my experience is way different from a queen who lives in rural Indiana. Do you attract sexual attention in or out of drag? Honey Davenport: I certainly hope so! I am the most sex-positive queen you will ever meet. With all the attention I pay to getting myself ready in drag, I hope people stare at my ass while I’m performing. My real desire is that they’ll want to rip my drag off, have a fun romp, and buy me a new outfit in the morning. Lucy Flawless: I absolutely attract more sexual energy when I’m in drag. Being in drag is the greatest icebreaker ever. Just about anyone will come up and talk to you. Personally, sex appeal is a large part of my stage persona, I project it on stage and I use it to get money from people and I get a few compliments along the way. Salina Estitties: Since my drag persona is a spicy, thick-bottomed Latina, I exude sex and sensuality in drag. I invite that energy in. I like to think part of my gig is allowing people to get in touch with their inner freak, so a lot of people want attention in some sort of way. On the other hand, there are men who take it too far,
Sex in drag: love it or hate it? Honey Davenport: Back in my New York days, I used to throw some wild stripper parties. There are definitely some sexy stories I could tell from the dark rooms of those parties, and they all involve me in drag. At this point in my career, getting laid is the last thing I’m thinking about in drag. I’m serious about my craft and focused on my art, and put all of my energy into giving the best performance possible. Lucy Flawless: Hate it, hate it, hate it! I think I’ve had sex in drag twice in my life. If I’ve got nails on, lips on, or hair on, it really limits what I can do. Personally, I don’t connect with drag on a sexual level. When I get in drag and go perform for people, that’s me going to work. Also, I’m a trained performer, and entertainment is a business I’ve been hustling for a while. After a night of performing, I’m tired and want to get out of drag, not have sex in it. Salina Estitties: I’ve given and received head in drag, and I’ve only ever fucked once in drag. It was Raven Symone’s birthday party at the Roosevelt in Hollywood during Xmas and I was dressed as a pregnant Mrs. Claus. I caught the attention of Raven’s 6’4” ‘straight’ friend. My nails were popping off while I was topping him. There have been times where the men I’m hooking up with think I’m trans woman and anticipate a penis, but they don’t want to see anything ‘manly’ beyond that. There have been times where they see how furry my ass is and then tell me they’re not interested, or times I meet someone and we plan to meet up later and I show up out of drag and they aren’t interested anymore cuz I’m not longer presenting as a woman. Do you feel sexiest in or out of drag? Honey Davenport: I feel incredibly sexy out of drag as James. Thanks to the interviews on RuPaul’s Drag Race, everyone was able to see the trade that exists under the makeup. Growing up as a queer Black effeminate young adult growing up in West Philly, I did not feel sexy. My self-sexiness exploded once I was fortunate enough to be on television. Surprisingly, having millions of fans
calling me trade and thousands of my followers double-clicking on Instagram pictures of my bum is an amazing confidence booster!
and I’ve had to excuse myself because they’re being total creeps. I get fetishized most after the gig, mostly by Uber drivers! I remember one time this Uber driver kept circling the block trying to get me to hop in the car with him. He drove me around the block to a dark street and, as I blew, I noticed a baby seat in the back of the car and his wife as his lock screen on his phone.
Lucy Flawless: I project more sexual energy in drag – often I’m literally performing sexiness. However, I wouldn’t say that I feel sexual in drag. I know that I look sexy AF when I’m all dolled up, but it isn’t comfortable. It might look bomb dot com, but my dick and balls are up in my throat, I’m wearing five pairs of tights, heels, and my head is duct-taped. I feel sexiest when I’m wearing next to nothing. Salina Estitties: Being in drag has allowed me to find that confidence to take with me out of drag. In drag, I always feel sexy. Out of drag it varies depending on how my body feels. As a thick Latinx person, my body fluctuates a lot. Right now with this quarantine weight, I don’t feel sexy out of drag, but I know that’s something I can work on and work towards. Do you have standout stories to share about sex and drag? Spill! Honey Davenport: The better question is, do we have enough time for all my hilarious stories about sex and drag? I’ve lost wigs mid-fellatio, I’ve had my breastplate fall out of my bra, and I once even lost a nail during finger play. That being said, as a lady I can’t give away all of my stories, but I hope interviews like this start to normalize sexuality just a little more for everyone. Lucy Flawless: There was one night, I walked out of a bar and this cute man was standing there. Unfortunately, he was the worst kind of American straight guy you could meet and was starting to really annoy me, so I ate his ass and kicked him out. After, when I looked at my face in the mirror, everything from the eyeballs down was gone. I don’t know if straight boys look at their buttholes, but his would have been every colour of the rainbow that night. Sure beats a makeup wipe! Salina Estitties: I’ve shared two of my favourites already, so here’s another: one time I was performing at a brunch show, and there was this cute skater boy who kept eyeballing me. I escorted him to a bathroom stall and he wanted to suck me off. So he is pulling down my five layers of tights, untucking my dick, with my balls falling out of their tucking cavity – very sexy. As soon as I exclaimed, ‘Oh, fuck yeah,’ in my natural male voice, he stopped, looked at me, and I had to readjust my voice and say, ‘Oh, don’t stop, papi,’ and he continued. I had to moan in drag to keep his fantasy alive. Lesson learned!
Honey Davenport - Lucy Flawless - Salina Estitties
BOBBY BOX is a writer and certified sex educator who has been published in, among others, Greatist, Playboy, The Advocate, NewNowNext, Them. and Askmen. He is Grindr’s sex columnist, and is very active on Instagram and Twitter. Follow him at @bybobbybox.
Corbin Colby Celebrates Being Black And Gay He’s loving the skin he’s in By Phil Bessimer
Gay porn star Corbin Colby recalls a difficult childhood growing up biracial in Virginia Beach, Virginia. As half Black, half Italian, he felt like he didn’t fit in anywhere. He was disowned by most of those on the white side of his family for being too dark, and often bullied by Black kids in his neighbourhood for appearing too white. “I’ve been called all types of the n-word,” he reflects today. It might lead some to think Colby wouldn’t be proud of his Black skin. They’d be wrong. Raised by a strong Black mother, he embraces Black culture today, and is celebrating the peaceful protesters who have found their voices and are working to stomp out systemic racism, once and for all. What does Black Lives Matter mean to you? BLM means so many things to me. However, I think what it means most is how it has inspired a lot of people to embrace the beauty of being Black. I’ve watched as people have found themselves throughout all of this and I love it. Does being a public person impact your ability to participate in protests? My title means nothing to me. NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
Is there a concern that if you were arrested, your name and your occupation would be splashed all over mainstream media? I live my life authentically and have done so for a very long time. My family knows about everything I do, so I have nothing to hide. Truthfully, I would so much love to be out there marching for equality. Unfortunately, my partner has lupus and my being out there would put him at a higher risk of getting COVID. I’m doing what I can, though. I’m donating money to bail funds and to Black trans women organizations. How did you find your way into adult film? I stumbled into it through a roommate of mine. He opened the doors for me and I took over from there.
Do you feel people are finally recognizing the hardships Black people have endured for so long? I feel like it’s always been recognized, but continuously ignored. Truthfully, I feel like we are making very little progress.
Is the industry everything you expected it to be? I didn’t really have expectations going into it. I just did it to do it and then stuck with it.
What else needs to be done? We have to reshape the governments in the USA and Canada. They are systems that are dated, prejudiced, and created for and by white men. Yes, there have been some amendments that have helped achieve rights for people of colour, but it’s not enough. We need to start fresh and create something new.
What is like to be a person of colour in the gay adult business? There are a lot of stigmas placed on people of colour in the industry. One studio I worked with forced me to cut my hair because of how ‘unkempt’ it was. Helix later encouraged me to grow it back out. That’s actually another reason why I’ve stayed with Helix for so long. They’ve allowed me to be me and not fit into some image the industry wanted me to be.
Is there a reason you chose to work exclusively with Helix Studios? Helix made me feel the most comfortable. They took care of me, and valued my opinions and feelings. They have been so great to me over the years. Also, the quality of their films is a cut above the rest.
Will you be voting in the US election this November? I’m voting and I encourage everyone in the USA to vote. Not only for the president but all elected officials. Also, the electoral college needs to be abolished. Learn more about Corbin Colby at HelixStudios.net.
Photo by HelixStudios
PHIL BESSIMER was born in Seattle, raised in Pennsylvania, and now resides in California. His work has appeared in numerous places in print and online including AXS, Examiner, and more. He is a single parent to three cats, and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher.
MEXICOâ€™S THIRD GENDER In the southern state of Oaxaca, there are three genders: male, female and muxe. What can we learn from that?
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
By Christopher Turner Photographs by Nelson Morales
If you have never questioned your assigned gender, you may wonder why challenging the concept of gender identity and society’s gender roles is so important or worthy of lengthy court battles and legislative advocacy. For some it is about acceptance, while for others it is about challenging and dismantling prevalent structures of cisnormativity and the gender binary, both here in Canada and across the globe. People whose identities do not fit into a rigid male or female gender binary are continuing to make headway towards a future where there is collective appreciation for difference, and not conformity. There are plenty of examples of what a fluid future actually looks like. In Juchitán de Zaragoza, a town in the west of the Istmo de Tehuantepec region in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca, a small Indigenous community of individuals known as muxes continues to challenge almost every Western concept of gender identity and gender roles. Though documentation is incredibly sparse, the duality of the muxe community has been acknowledged and celebrated since at least the 1950s in Oaxaca and likely throughout Mexico’s Indigenous regions. Who are the muxes? Derived from mujer, the Spanish word for woman, muxes (alternately spelled muxhes and pronounced “moo-shay”) are generally people who have been assigned a male or female gender at birth but who dress or behave in ways associated with another gender as they grow older.
Not all muxes express their identities the same way. Some dress as women and take hormones to change their bodies. Others favour male clothes, while still others have a more nuanced and fluctuating gender identity. No matter how they present, what this group does share is living in a community that accepts them and sees them as respected contributors to their town. They often work as artists, teachers, nurses, caregivers and merchants amid the rest of Juchitán’s working class of craft makers, artisans, beauticians and manufacturers. In fact, many in the community believe that muxes have special intellectual and artistic gifts. Fernando Noé Díaz, a primary school teacher in Juchitán, reflects on the general sentiment the citizens of the municipality feel towards muxes. He notes, “I guess muxes are so respected because they are more a social gender rather than a sexual one. They have an important role in the community.”
Pray for us
Like many people who don’t see their gender as fixed, muxes do not identify exclusively as male or female, and they do not identify as gay. They are different from the trans movement, and not really part of the larger global LGBTQ community. The muxe tradition is local and Indigenous, and its own thing.
“The muxe tradition is local and Indigenous, and its own thing.”
The concept of living free of labels like male and female still disorients even the most progressive parts of the world. But this small community of individuals in Mexico should be recognized as a model of how various cultures make space for life outside of the binary. The concept of muxe can be confusing to an outsider. It’s a culture that is difficult to pin down or strictly define – and it’s that kind of duality that makes Juchitán so intriguing when we look to it for inspiration (although the “third-gender” muxes mirror the Western cultural understanding of what it means to be genderqueer). One 25
can’t help but wonder what we might learn about the concept of gender by looking more closely at the muxe tradition in this one remote town where gender norms have been openly challenged for decades. The concept of muxe is constantly evolving Anthropologists trace the acceptance of people of mixed gender to pre-Colombian Mexico, pointing to accounts of cross-dressing Aztec priests and Mayan gods who were both male and female at the same time. Spanish colonizers wiped out most of those attitudes in the 1500s by forcing Indigenous tribes to convert to Catholicism, but mixed-gender identities managed to survive in the quiet outskirts of metropolitan Mexico among the Zapotec people in southern Oaxaca, where most people speak the Indigenous Zapotec language rather than Spanish. Local legend has it that St. Nicholas Ferrer, the patron saint of Juchitán, was carrying a sack of muxes on a journey to distribute them evenly across the country. But the sack tore when he got to Juchitán and they all spilled out, and that’s why there are so many people who identify as muxe living in the region.
However, it should be noted that even within this region, there’s still debate about whether muxes are born or whether they are formed by society. Some say parents encourage it in their children from birth, especially in families without daughters. Others argue that men who identify as muxe are actually born gay and then have the role of muxe foisted upon them, presenting the argument that in Juchitán it is preferable to be muxe rather than gay. However, most muxes have embraced the muxe label to define their life experience.
Of course, Juchitán’s status as a muxe haven today has to do more with the fact that they’re more visible here than anywhere else in Mexico, thanks to the town’s reputation for tolerance and permissiveness. A journey of self-discovery Nelson Morales was born in Unión Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Mexico, and pursued his BA in communication science at the José Vasconcelos University in Oaxaca City. However, for the past 12 years, he has devoted himself entirely to his photographic practice, in which he mainly focuses on sexual diversity and identity. Until recently he was living in Mexico City and travelling back and forth to his hometown for his photography work. He returned to Oaxaca when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but plans on returning to Mexico City in early 2021. Today Morales (who uses he/him pronouns) identifies as a muxe, but it wasn’t always that way. Though muxes historically have commanded respect in Zapotec culture, Morales – who had accepted his sexuality as gay from a young age – says he had grown up rejecting the muxe community and any possibility that he might be part of it because of his own uncomfortable feelings about the muxe community.
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
Still, when he began experimenting with photography, he found himself drawn to the idea of photographing members of the muxe community in his hometown. Morales began documenting their everyday life, and taking black and white portraits in their homes. “I wanted to know more about them,” he says. With the passage of time, the project became more personal and became a project of self-discovery. “I remember one night I was with a group of muxes in a shooting, and suddenly it occurred to me that they could do my makeup – and I liked the result. Then I joined the photo session and it was something amazing,” Morales shares. “I felt a lot of adrenaline, and that was when I started to do a lot of self-portraits. I think that’s when I felt like [I was] finding the right path.”
That evening Morales found his own identity as a muxe, and his voice as a photographer. His work captures the surrealism, grace,
eroticism and mystery that define his lived experience as part of the muxe community. “I have not stopped making self-portraits, or being a part of the scene.”
The great lady
While Morales’ long process of acceptance is unique, that doesn’t make it any less valid. “I rejected the idea of becoming a woman because I did not want to be like them [muxes]. I thought that all muxes had to be very feminine. However, with the passage of time I got to know them and became their ally and [collaborator],” Morales says. “I also accepted my identity as muxe because I was born in this culture, [but] with my male body. It was a long process of acceptance.” He adds, “We are a unique community with many advantages to express ourselves. The muxe community has worked for visibility and freedom. I also believe that belonging to the Zapotec culture makes us unique. Our customs, festivals, traditions, clothes, our strong women make us very particular.”
A sometimes uneasy mixture of acceptance and hate Muxes are not only respected, they are celebrated throughout Juchitán for their defiance of gender roles. A celebration that honours muxes and their gender ambiguity manifests in Oaxaca’s threeday festival called Vela de las Intrepidas (Vigil of the Intrepids), where the city comes together and many muxes wear elaborate dresses and skirts. The celebration has been taking place since the 1970s, a similar timeline to North American celebrations of the gay liberation movement, which really began after the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York. (Canada’s first recognized Pride event, a “Gay Day Picnic,” was held at Hanlan’s Point in Toronto on Sunday, August 1, 1971.)
But Vela de las Intrepidas, and this visibility and tolerance of the muxe community in Juchitán, doesn’t necessary mean that muxes don’t experience violence – some muxes have been beaten and even killed for taking on a third gender role. On February 9, 2019, Óscar Cazorla, an Indigenous Zapotec activist and an advocate for muxe and LGBTQ rights, was found murdered in his home in Juchitán. Cazorla was a founding member of Las Auténticas Intrépidas Buscadoras del Peligro or “The Authentic Intrepid Seekers of Danger,” a muxe-run group created in 1976 to foster solidarity among the muxe community and celebrate sexual diversity. As a self-identified muxe, an Indigenous person, a human rights activist and a member of the LGBTQ community, Cazorla existed in an intersection of targeted identities. Indigenous peoples, human rights activists, environmental defenders and members of the LGBTQ community remain targets of hate crime not just in Mexico but around the globe. The Mexican office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights confirms the murders of human rights defenders in Mexico, including Cazorla’s 2019 murder, each and every year. The International Trans Fund (ITF), in their Trans Murder Monitoring Project, reveals that there have been at least half a dozen unresolved assassinations of muxe community members in Mexico in the past 15 years.
Around the world While muxes may have a distinct identity in Oaxaca, they are not immune to the global forces of migration and the interchange of ideas about gender. Throughout the years, many muxes have left the southern state of Oaxaca and relocated around the globe. 27
In some areas across North America, ‘muxe’ is becoming a term adopted by those who don’t fall neatly into the categories of queer culture, gay, transvestite or transsexual. Could the term someday become mainstream and adopted by those who don’t necessarily have any ties to Juchitán? The muxes of Juchitán are also not the only culture to embrace the idea of someone who doesn’t identify strictly as male or female or non-binary. Indigenous cultures in regions across the world have accepted the idea of the “third gender” for centuries.
Back at home In Canada and the United States, muxes may not be as visible or as accepted as they are in Mexico, but there is definitely increasing awareness that some people don’t see their gender as fixed or as exclusively male or female. Over the past decade, the way in which Canadians have been exposed to sexual diversity has changed and more people understand that gender is not necessarily binary, but falls on a spectrum. In 2018, the Department of Public Works gave an explanation for what “non-binary” entails: “Sex is binary and refers to one’s biology at birth, whereas gender is not binary and can often be about how one identifies oneself physically or psychologically.” In fact, Statistics Canada will break new ground next year: the upcoming 2021 census will ask Canadians if they identify neither as male or female.
In Canada, we refer to a person who embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit as Two-Spirit, a translation of the Anishinaabemowin term niizh manidoowag. For Zuni, a Native American tribe, the term for a two-spirited person is lhamana. In traditional Samoan culture, boys born into male bodies who identify as female are known as Fa’Afafines, while in South Asia Hijras identify as women born in male bodies, and in Madagascar the Sakalava people recognize “Statistics Canada developed new standards and questions on sex and gender having extensively consulted academic experts and a third gender called Sekrata, who are typically boys who exhibit members of the LGBTQ2 community through focus groups and traditionally feminine behaviour or who from a young age are one-on-one interviews to define concepts that were well understood raised by parents as girls. by those in the community,” wrote Cabinet staff. The cultures around the world that have open approaches to gender According to Cabinet, StatsCan “relies on the views and suggestions can act as a guide for acceptance of non-traditional gender roles. of diverse groups of women, men and non-binary people in Canada to guide what information matters to them. Statistics Canada strives to engage stakeholders early and often.” (So far, text of the questions has not been released, and StatsCan declined comment on the addition.) So, what is the future of gender? That kind of sounds like a crazy question to ask. Yet the conversations around appropriate gender roles, gender equality and the gender spectrum grow in import and scale. And stories like those of the muxe community are important lessons reminding us that the future of gender is increasingly non-binary.
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“So, what is the future of gender?”
COVER Self-portrait with red skirt Miranda
CHRISTOPHER TURNER acted as guest editor for this issue of IN Magazine. He is a Toronto-based writer, editor and lifelong fashionisto with a passion for pop culture and sneakers. Follow him on social media at @Turnstylin.
THE LGBTQ MOVEMENT FALTERED AND WE’RE STARTING TO SEE THE PRICE LGBTQ acceptance is eroding even among young people. What are we going to do about it? By Adam Zivo
There is some very bad news that not nearly enough people are talking about. Acceptance of the LGBTQ community is significantly declining in the United States and has been for several years now. Almost two years ago, a national annual survey by GLAAD found that, since 2016, Americans have become much more uncomfortable with LGBTQ folks. Though the report has since become slightly dated, little research has been done on the issue since. Other statistics, such as consistent increases in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, suggest that the problem has not abated and may even be getting worse. Despite the seriousness of this issue, there appears to be little awareness within the LGBTQ community that its public support is eroding. This ignorance within the wider community is mirrored by a lack of serious analysis by queer leaders and researchers. That needs to change.
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And let’s not fool ourselves that this is a US-only problem. While it’s unclear how much this backlash is mirrored in Canada and Western Europe (which share similar historical trajectories on LGBTQ rights), both of these regions have also seen notable increases in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes – so there is good reason to be pessimistic. However, only real research focused on social attitudes will give us clarity. For whatever reason, this research isn’t being done in earnest. Younger people are turning away The most troubling thing about the GLAAD report is that it shows that younger generations are turning away from LGBTQ acceptance the fastest. Of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34, only 45 per cent reported feeling comfortable interacting with LGBTQ people in 2018. This was a large drop from 2017 (53%) and 2016 (63%). To put this into perspective, more than a quarter of young Americans who had previously been comfortable with the LGBTQ community were turned off from it in just two years. Decades of progress have been knocked back in a very short window of time. The disproportionate drop-off in youth support is problematic considering that activists generally trust in generational change to push progress, believing that hate can simply die off if you wait long enough. It calls for a rethink of our long-term assumptions about LGBTQ acceptance. It means opening ourselves up to the possibility that backsliding on acceptance may not be the temporary, last gasp of a dying era. 30
Though some parts of the LGBTQ community are aware of the backlash against it, they nonetheless tend to frame said backlash as a generational conflict. The underlying assumption, as optimistic as it is foolish, is that short-term setbacks will ultimately be corrected by the justice of time. Why are we so confident? The good news is that, while youth support is collapsing, support among other generations appears to be more stable, at least for now. When looking at Americans as a whole, most measures on LGBTQ acceptance have shown slower, though consistent, increases in negative attitudes. For example, discomfort with learning that a family member is LGBTQ grew from 27 per cent in 2016 to 31 per cent in 2018. Other figures, such as discomfort with seeing an LGBTQ couple hold hands, have stayed more or less the same. Another piece of good news is that support for equal legal rights for LGBTQ people remains stable, with four fifths of Americans consistently backing them. Americans may support LGBTQ rights in an abstract and legal sense, but for younger Americans this support is increasingly being given begrudgingly. Younger generations are shifting from being allies of the LGBTQ community to being merely passive supporters. Passive support, while not ideal, is tolerable. What happens, though, if acceptance of the LGBTQ community continues to decline? What happens if new generations of leaders enter into positions of power while harbouring widespread discomfort with LGBTQ folks? It’s hard to imagine how this disdain wouldn’t have an impact on everyday safety and legal rights. It could be that GLAAD’s research is wrong. It’s hard to draw a definite picture of things from just two years of research done by one organization, which is why it’s frustrating that more work hasn’t been done to investigate this. Also, the existing data leaves many questions unanswered. It only goes to 2018, so what have things been like since then? A two-year gap in data isn’t a big deal if you have stable trends from which you can make inferences. However, with the decline of LGBTQ acceptance being so abrupt, we don’t have the luxury to make educated guesses. What’s going on? Measuring the scope of the problem is one task, but another equally important task is understanding why it’s happening. We’re in the dark
there, too. This is dangerous. Until we have a proper understanding of why different communities are turning away from us, we won’t know how to win them back. Some organizations have tried to fill in the blanks themselves. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) claims that most of the antiLGBTQ backlash can be traced to the toxic effects of the Trump administration. However, their methodology for adjudicating what counts as hate – let alone ascertaining the underlying motives of social trends – is contested. The SPLC’s narrative is a convenient and comfortable one. It’s true that Trumpism has amplified anti-LGBTQ voices and fostered a political culture within which all minority groups have been subject to increased harassment and violence. The timing aligns neatly enough, and the story plays well with partisan tribalism. But that suggestion also has a lot of problems. First, Trump is least popular with younger generations, where the backlash against LGBTQ folks has been most widespread. This suggests that, however much Trumpism stokes anti-LGBTQ sentiments, it might not be driving the trend. Second, we should be careful about confusing cause and effect. As much as Trumpism stokes the flames of hate, it didn’t appear from nowhere, and is widely understood to be a symptom of an underlying rot that we have failed to adequately address. Until we fix problems at their root, addressing Trumpism will not solve things. Resentment towards LGBTQ people will simply grow and find new outlets. It would be futile to look for a single, authoritative reason why LGBTQ acceptance is eroding. The world is complex. Motivations and beliefs vary between individuals and communities, so many different factors come into play. At the same time, if we listen to the people turning away from us, we might be able to discern which things are particularly important. It can be hard to listen to the people who dislike us, even hate us, but this is the best way to accurately understand them and use that understanding to neutralize their anger. It is for our sake, not theirs. People are telling us why they don’t like us Within anti-LGBTQ rhetoric today, one thing really stands out. There is a growing narrative that LGBTQ people have become the bullies of society, and that we have become the intolerant ones. This is not an entirely new narrative, as there have always been grumblings about “the gay lobby” and its supposedly nefarious powers over society. What is new, though, is the specifics of the narrative, which focuses on how LGBTQ activism has changed over time. Among homophobes, the popular story is that, while earlier forms of LGBTQ activism were sympathetizable, newer forms of activism have gone too far and become too aggressive and disrespectful. Predictably, the opinions of homophobes betray a lack of understanding of the enduring challenges and violence still faced by LGBTQ folks today. Nonetheless, they gesture to real transformations in LGBTQ activism that have occurred over the past decade. For much of its contemporary history, the prevailing approach to LGBTQ activism was based on persuasion and on highlighting commonalities between the LGBTQ community and the wider public. Then, in the mid 2010s, something happened. Intoxicated by our own hard-won victories, and believing that these 31
victories couldn’t be easily reversed, we became more adversarial towards the rest of society. “Love is love” was replaced with “queer as in fuck you.” We stopped caring about getting people to like us…and now people like us less. Our critics are telling us this emphatically. They are explicitly referencing our change in approach. Still, we are somehow shocked by this predictable outcome. With this in mind, rather than dismiss our critics entirely – as we have already done to our own detriment – perhaps it’s better for us to use this as an opportunity for self-reflection. How can we improve LGBTQ activism to stop our support from further eroding? How can we counteract growing, hostile narratives around the LGBTQ community before it’s too late? Early LGBTQ activism as public relations Broadly speaking, you can think about activism in two ways: war or public relations. A warlike mindset means taking a destructive approach to your foes, and fixating on defeating and destroying them. It’s useful sometimes, assuming that your foes can be defeated, destroyed or otherwise neutralized. For example, warring against a small segment of society can be useful, because whatever vendetta they might have against you, what does it matter if they never have the power to pursue it? Why not go to war against fringe hate groups, for example? Then there is the public relations approach, which means focusing on constructively engaging and persuading your foes. It is the slower, less emotionally satisfying way to approach things, but it also addresses problems at the root. Rather than temporarily suppressing outward expressions of violence, it changes the beliefs that make violence possible in the first place. For foes who cannot be neutralized, this is the better solution.
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Over the past few decades, some within the LGBTQ community have preferred to be more like warriors while others have preferred to be diplomats and publicists. The LGBTQ community has never fallen neatly into one camp or the other, as different factions of the community have competed against each other to push their own specific politics. Still, it’s possible to say that the LGBTQ community has, in aggregate and over time, drifted towards one side or the other. For a long time, things seemed decisively in favour of public relations. Perhaps this is because it was necessary for survival. Though today we fetishize rioting (something best seen in the way that we talk about Stonewall), the more influential parts of LGBTQ activism have historically been about image-building (or, if you want to put it another way, de-stigmatization). It’s not hard to understand why. Up until very recently, LGBTQ people were widely seen as perverts and degenerates and, with the rise of AIDS, as harbingers of disease. When faced with the withering scorn of the majority, fixing your image is a question of survival. You can’t win a war against all of society. Many of the great stunts of earlier activists were fundamentally about persuasion and fostering empathy. The AIDS quilt, for example, called attention to the humanity of the most marginalized, and was provocative but not adversarial at heart. It was an excellent public relations play. Similarly, in the 1990s and 2000s, it was popular to call attention to the fact that someone you knew or loved might be gay, an idea that may seem banal today but was edgy at the 32
The most effective strains of LGBTQ activism wanted to woo the majority, not alienate it, and these activists steadily achieved their goals. Incrementally, LGBTQ people were welcomed into society and spared the harassment that came with being pariahs. From public relations to war In the 2010s, things changed. Marriage equality was legalized – which, while a wonderful thing, had the unfortunate side effect of creating the impression that LGBTQ rights had been definitively achieved. Many of the more conventional members of the community, including a large part of the professional class, drifted away from LGBTQ activism. Having won what was for them the ultimate symbol of legitimacy, they believed that they could retreat into a cocoon of normalcy. With this abandonment, the voices left behind were disproportionately more aggressive, adversarial and war-like, and less cognizant of the value of compromise and patience. Their militancy was amplified by their justifiable resentment at having been abandoned by the more privileged elements of the community. Rather than adapt the tools and methods that had worked up until this point, they threw them down and went their own way. They could do this, finally, now that their moderate competitors within LGBTQ activist spaces had disappeared. Simultaneously, social justice advocacy was poisoned by the rise of a style of activism, popularly referred to as woke culture, that prioritized performative outrage over persuasion. Histrionics and purity tests replaced adult conversations and attention to context. Perhaps this was a symptom of the optimism of the later Obama years. Though not great for economic justice, the first half of the 2010s had seen steady progress in many other areas of social advocacy. With the way that history is conceived – as an irreversible march forward, slowed only by temporary stumbles – these years seemed to herald progressivism’s permanent victory in the culture wars. This sense of imminent victory made the foes of LGBTQ rights seem smaller, weaker and defeatable. The project of LGBTQ rights shifted from persuading the majority to vanquishing the stragglers. This sense of victory was also understandably intoxicating. What group, long marginalized, does not find itself a little intoxicated when given the social clout long denied it? What victim does not want a little revenge against his diminishing oppressors? The tone of social activism became borderline retributional. The unbelievers no longer needed to be persuaded because there was no point in constructively engaging a crumbling opponent. If anything, they should be happy to be attacked, because perhaps that could save them from being stranded on the wrong side of history. Image-conscious activism was replaced with an arsenal of practices that seemed designed to alienate others. Suddenly activists started saying, “It’s not my job to educate you.” They talked about being compensated for the “emotional labour” of advocating for their own
rights, and felt clever for raising new barriers for the dissemination of ideas that would make society safer. By the mid-2010s, they had even begun to jump down the throats of their own allies, harshly policing their behaviour through strict rules and hierarchies, and taking them for granted. This strange and arrogant indifference to persuading people of progressivism’s merits resulted in a status quo where outward expressions of prejudice were suppressed without treating their underlying causes. Denied outlets to express their rage, the anger of non-progressives grew more and more pressurized, like a cyst filling with pus. This would not be so bad if LGBTQ rights were firmly entrenched and if homophobia and transphobia were marginal beliefs. The anger of the fringes can be managed. But this was not the case, and LGBTQ activists had grossly underestimated the fragility of LGBTQ acceptance and the vast reservoirs of skepticism still to be drained. A new challenge Foes of the LGBTQ community caught on to this. By the late 2010s, they had started to effectively frame the LGBTQ community as the “real” bullies in the culture war. New kinds of memes began to proliferate, contrasting old forms of activism with new ones. The old style of activism, which harped on sympathetic ideas of equality using carefully chosen language like “love is love,” had always been hard to combat. Decades of steady growth in LGBTQ acceptance had shown as much. Now, rather than fight that losing battle, homophobes argued that either the LGBTQ community had either abandoned these lofty ideas or had never genuinely believed in them in the first place. More specifically, they argued that LGBTQ people were not interested in equality (or, at least, weren’t any longer) and, more than anything else, wanted superiority and to lord their identities over others. The message seems to have stuck, unfortunately. Younger generations, who have had the most exposure to new forms of LGBTQ activism, are now turning away from us the fastest. The aggression and performative outrage that has been so in vogue lately seems to have scared people away. The backlash is still fresh, so it ought to be fixable. The problem is that the LGBTQ community is instead doubling down on its new, alienating and tone-deaf militantism, further eschewing the conciliatory messaging that had once been so effective, and potentially accelerating the erosion of support. It’s difficult to admit that our own behaviour may be contributing to our marginalization. That idea can be interpreted by some as saying that our marginalization is deserved, which is never the case. It can also be hard to see ourselves reflected in the eyes of our foes, because it holds us to the beliefs of people who want to hurt us. However, it’s also okay to say that some activist strategies may not be productive. It’s okay to admit that communities make mistakes in advocating their own liberation. To look inwards and take responsibility for our actions is a crucial form of self-empowerment. Our own behaviour is what we have most power over, after all. We can, at the very least, do this as the first step in mitigating newly surging discomfort with our communities, and begin the process of shoring up support before the problem gets out of hand.
ADAM ZIVO is a Toronto-based social entrepreneur, photographer and analyst best known for founding the LoveisLoveisLove campaign.
time, and which cleverly de-othered LGBTQ individuals. Another useful example: the struggle to legalize marriage gained public traction partially through re-branding “gay marriage” as “marriage equality,” using subtle changes in framing to stress commonalities over differences. Finally, Pride parades, which some have recently tried to recast as a celebration of rioting, were similarly designed to elicit sympathy through visibility.
MODEL: Stephano BLACK SWIMWEAR AND BLACK SATIN ROBE: Rhowan James
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
Ready for a new winter season of serious lewks?
PHOTOGRAPHER: Ivan Otis CREATIVE DIRECTION: Paul Langill WARDROBE STYLISTS: Fredsonn Silva Aguda, Jeremy HS HAIR: Brian Phillips from World Salon MAKEUP: Julia Valente MODELS: Jasper, Nick, Traves (B&M Models); Divanita (Dulcedo Models); Stephano (Elmer Olsen Models); Jude, Michael, Tomoshi (Plutino Models); Fredsonn Silva Aguda Special thanks to Giancarlo Pawelec from Studio311.ca, for your amazing studio and hospitality
MODEL: Divanita CREAM WINTER HAT: JayCow Millinery LINEN BLAZER: Bustle Clothing 35
FASHION NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
MODEL: Tomoshi BLACK FAUX CROC TRENCH COAT: Hilary Macmillan 36
MODEL: Fredsonn PLEATHER JACKET: Zara Man BLACK JEANS: Yves Saint Laurent 37
FASHION NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
MODEL: Jude BLACK SHIRT, AND BLACK TRANSPARENT BEE PRINT TOP AND PANTS: Bustle Clothing 38
MODEL: Jasper CREAM NECKTIE BLOUSE: Mayer BLACK BELT: Gucci 39
FASHION NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
MODEL: Nick BLACK TUXEDO SUIT: Christopher Bates 40
MODEL: Michael HALF BLACK HALF SILVER TOP: Huntington (Toronto Fashion Academy) BLACK JEANS: Armani Exchange FAUX CROC BIKER JACKET: Hilary Macmillan 41
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
FEATURED FASHIONS (ALPHABETICAL): Bustle Clothing, Christopher Bates, Hilary Macmillan, House of Dwir, JayCow Millinery, Mayer, Moscato Pink, Rhowan James, The Shop, Toronto Fashion Academy, Zara 43
TROUBLE WITH LABELS There’s a power in naming things and in not naming things By Paul Gallant
Back in the 1990s, one of the hopes I had for feminism, and its flamboyant offspring gay liberation, was that gender would become a far less important way of seeing each other and organizing the world. Sure, in the realm of sexual desire and romance, gender would likely (though not always) direct who we’d choose as life partner, fuckbuddy or something-in-between. But I expected that sexual orientation and gender identity would become more like having a preference for a certain ice cream flavour, a preference that’s important when standing at the gelato-shop counter, but with few implications in other aspects of one’s life. You know: a single straight cis male scientist wears dresses to the lab and practises kickboxing; a polyamorous cis butch lesbian gives manicures; a monogamous straight trans woman runs a mining company and wears ties to the office.
intent on nailing things down. Lots of nails. And a label on each nail. In the straight mainstream, “gender reveal parties” have become all the rage, festooned with all the pink-and-blue clichéd signifiers of masculine and feminine, based on whether certain body parts are spotted in an ultrasound. Considering research that sexual orientation and “sexually differentiated childhood behaviour” may be influenced by hormones during gestation, this seems like a desperate (and futile) parental effort to lock things down before the process is complete, a ritual cleansing to shore up gender norms before a child opens their eyes. Conversion therapy is, it seems, for loser parents who didn’t act early enough.
My prediction was a little right, but completely wrong. North American society has certainly become more obsessed with all the possibilities of sexual and gender identity. But rather than the freewheeling, boundary-less utopia of my imagination, we seem
We might also imagine a spectrum for intensity of desire – from asexual, which used to be thought of as a dysfunction, to (to use a label close to my heart) sex-positive slut, which used to be thought of as a pathology. Another spectrum runs from romantically oriented
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But the progressive side of things has also grown more rigid. While old-school labels like the affectionate “tomboy” have fallen into disfavour – why suggest that a sporty girl is boy-like? – our new And all those aspects of a person might change over time. Our labelling system has an ever-expanding but very precise menu. conventional notions of what is men’s stuff and what is women’s, “Cis” or “trans” might be considered base ingredients, though these what is straight and what is gay, would (outside the bedroom) identities may be less relevant if one identifies as non-binary. Then break down into a blur of individual characteristics. If a person there’s sexual orientation. Though many people see sexual orientation conforms to stereotypes, great. If they don’t, also great. The glass as being a hetero or homo switch, it’s been largely regarded as a ceiling would be shattered, men would be more in touch with their spectrum since Alfred Kinsey’s studies of sexuality in the 1940s feelings, homophobia would seem nonsensical and the world would and ’50s. Kinsey gave us his six-point scale, so that bisexual, with an equal taste for men and women, sits at position number three. be a happier place.
INSIGHT to sexually oriented, and another from monogamous to polyamorous. many letters as you want to LGBT2Q+, you’ll never capture Considering the spectrum of passive to active, gay men, especially, the breadth of global sexual and gender identities. Though it’s a have become increasingly strict. Gay TikTok, when it’s not taking clunky bureaucratic invention, I’ve grown fond of the acronym its shirt off and wagging its grey track pants at us, seems primarily SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity, sometimes used as dedicated to stereotyping tops (selfish, messy, unselfconscious), “the SOGI community”) since it can include anybody, no matter bottoms (eager to please, effeminate, neurotic) and vers guys their labels. (hard-to-find misunderstood underdogs). There’s nothing threatening or apocalyptic about this proliferation On top of this matrix of who we are and what we want in our of labels, and their constant evolution. Over the past 20 years, conjugal relationships, add another matrix of how our gender is as an editor and writer, I have witnessed “transexual” turn into seen by those around us and how we would like our gender to “transsexual” turn into “transgendered” turn into “transgender” turn be seen. So, then, someone might introduce themselves as a cis into “trans.” Social media has likely been a major factor in this femme bisexual female who’s more romantic than sexual, though explosion of terminology. The digital realm has allowed people still somewhat sexual, more passive than active, more poly than to communicate expansively about things that, for centuries (or monogamous – this is the identity quadrant that most drives lesbians perhaps even the whole of human history), were unspeakable. The crazy. Or we might meet a genderqueer trans man who’s asexual hard-to-articulate lingering glance has been replaced by hours and and loves group cuddles – this identity quadrant is fun at parties hours of verbiage on WhatsApp, Twitter and YouTube. with dancing and flirting, less so at orgies. Language must evolve so that we can speak with more precision, But even then, gender and sexuality do not define us. Ethnic and more thoughtfulness and, hopefully, more compassion. A term cultural backgrounds, and how they intersect with gender and like “demisexual” (people, according to the Trevor Project website, sexuality, are just as important. A cis Black gay man from the who only experience sexual attraction once they form a strong Caribbean may share some of the same sexual desires and romantic emotional connection with another person) may go viral, or it may inklings as a cis white gay man from Sudbury, but his lived end up in the dustbin of history. But if “demisexual” captures a experience may give him a completely different worldview. There very specific way of being in the world that matters to the people might be a sizzling synergy between these two – homosexuality who are experiencing it, then it has value. at its best plows lustfully across socio-economic lines – or their interaction might be filled with non sequitur after non sequitur. The trouble is when we get too dogmatic about labels, as if the Identities can bring us together, but these days they also do a good labels themselves are as real as the experiences and desires they job of pushing us apart. try to capture. Labels should be handy (but imprecise) descriptions of elusive realties, not ways to suss out the ideologically impure Many societies have distinctive ways of seeing sex and gender that or win social status. do not map easily onto any of the matrixes I’ve already sketched out. Two-spirited people in Indigenous American culture, Baklâs There’s a power in naming things. But there is also a power in in the Philippines, Hijras in India, Fa’afafine in Samoa. Add as leaving things open to see what surprises emerge.
PAUL GALLANT is a Toronto-based writer and editor who writes about travel, innovation, city building, social issues (particularly LGBT issues) and business for a variety of national and international publications. He’s done time as lead editor at the loop magazine in Vancouver as well as Xtra and fab in Toronto.
POWDER POOF How to hit the slopes at the annual Whistler Pride & Ski Festival – and hit the après-ski even harder
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020
By Doug Wallace
Ever since Benito the mountaineer literally swept me off my feet at Gay Ski Week in Arosa, Switzerland, I have vowed to take in Canada’s premier LGBTQ ski event, too. And from the second I step off the YVR Skylynx and into the magic of the Whistler Pride & Ski Festival, I am hooked – to the vibe, the snow, the conviviality, and the hundreds of very fit men. I had visited Whistler the previous summer, a week busy with canoeing, kayaking, and cycling along the 35-kilometre Valley Trail that connects all of Whistler’s neighbourhoods, lakes, parks and all. There is ATV and zipline adventure for those looking for exhilaration, but I was content with just a stroll along the Cloudraker Skybridge high above the treeline, followed up with a nice burrito. Winter at Whistler-Blackcomb, on the north edge of Garibaldi Provincial Park, presents a totally different face, of course. It’s the last week of January and we check into the Aava Whistler Hotel (the festival headquarters), stash our gear in the basement, then hit the outdoor pool. There’s a buzz in the steamy air, guests looking forward to a week of camaraderie, much of it happening a few steps away in the Whistler Conference Centre and surrounding pubs. We quickly realize that the après-ski schedule is so breakneck, we’ll have to trim it down to fit everything in, like my nap. There are cocktail mixers every afternoon, a full weekend of tea dances, an indoor pool party and a full evening takeover of Scandinave Spa Whistler, a cousin to our Collingwood outpost, with a rejuvenating maze of outdoor hot and cold pools, steam rooms and wood-fired saunas. Normally extremely quiet with no talking allowed – attendants are shushing full-time – the spa is chatty and a bit bratty. The hot
pools are so hot, everyone has to lounge waist-deep to avoid passing out, which makes for premium ogling. Me, I’m just glad it’s dark. Daytimes, we remind ourselves that we’re here for the hills, not just the gaying, and manage four full days of skiing, which has to be a record for me. The side-by-side mountains of Whistler-Blackcomb have more than 8,000 acres of terrain, with enough variety across 200 trails for every level of skier. There are so many lifts, we get lost not once but twice. We even take the wrong trail down one afternoon, ending up at the Creekside base, and have to take a transit bus back to the hotel – not embarrassing at all. Laying out the welcome mat “Pride & Ski is hands-down my favourite week,” says Sarah Morden, senior specialist of international communications of Vail Resorts. “The whole vibe of the town is elevated, effervescent. There’s a party spirit everywhere you go and the events are amazing – the dancing, the outfits! “Pride tends to be very emotional as well,” she adds. “People come from all over bringing an international flavour. There’s a weight lifted, a freedom of expression and love. I find it moving every year, and people are overwhelmed by how welcoming the town is.” While the parties will have to skip a year due to COVID-related dampening, Whistler is taking all the necessary precautions to ensure the most safe and successful upcoming season possible given the circumstances, with a new reservations system to access the mountain. There’s also the new Whistler Blackcomb Day Pass, on sale until early December, which yields flexible lift access for one
to 10 days at prices way lower than the ticket window. The resort is also continually upgrading both the skiing and the amenities, fixing bottlenecks, replacing lifts, getting more people up the mountain faster. “There’s enough space at the top for everybody. It’s huge,” says Morden. As for the Pride festival itself this coming January, it will be scaled down but recognized. “We still have the week of January 24 to 31 dedicated to us,” says Sunil Sinha, executive festival director. “The resort will continue to support the week with branding throughout the Village and we’re planning special Whistler Pride rates for hotels, lift passes and equipment rentals,” he explains. “We’ll be updating our site continually with current information so that anybody considering attending in 2021 will know exactly what’s happening and what isn’t.” Whistler is also completely delicious When we aren’t gaying or skiing, we’re eating – but I actually lose weight despite the three squares a day. Skiing really works up an appetite, which we satisfy in many ways, both high end and low. Beside the stone fireplace at the Fairmont Château Whistler Grill Room, we polish off a few of Chef Isabel Chung’s regional dishes, many of which are meat-forward. In fact, someone from the kitchen wheels a demo cart of raw cuts of meat right to the tables to explain each one – a fun touch. We melt into succulent sablefish, carrot “marrow” and a pan-roasted duck duo. At Sidecut in the Four Seasons, more surf and turf ensues in the form of Pacific oysters, cedar-planked salmon and Alberta beef tenderloin. Chef Eren Curyel also has an eye for showmanship, evident in the Long Bone Ribeye, a Flintstones-like Washington state steak for two. The whole dining room watches with astonishment as a father and son devour it in next to no time, with barely enough left over for a doggie bag. The restaurant is also famous for the Tipsy Snowman, a spiked hot chocolate confection.
When we’re not eating or posing or dancing, we are connecting with the neighbourhood in cultural ways. The beautifully designed Audain Art Museum always has something interesting going on in a variety of mediums, showcasing primarily B.C. artists, with exhibits curated in-house or breezing in from elsewhere. A full banquet and Indigenous dance performance at Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre follows a tour guided by cultural ambassadors from the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations. We also manage to hop on a bus one night for a trip a few minutes out of town to Vallea Lumina, a year-round outdoor light show and multimedia storytelling experience set in the old-growth forest of Cougar Mountain. Meanwhile, back at the party On our final day, I’m in the Aava hot tub soothing my sore legs and planning my outfit for Lady Bunny. The iconic New York entertainer spent the afternoon holding court at the bottom of the ski hill sprawled on a giant Pride flag that she then escorted through town, the rest of us following behind. How does her hair hold up in this weather? I wonder out loud. A man in front of me turns and replies, “I don’t think it’s real.” Lady Bunny’s Pig in a Wig show is beyond hysterical and quite filthy, those giant eyelashes not wavering for a second as she sails through old gags and new. We move to the dance floor down the street at Snowball for a few hours before repairing to the Aava to break out the liniment. Just before passing out, it becomes obvious to me that my first Whistler Pride & Ski will not be my last. Visit WhistlerPride.com.
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At both Cure Lounge and Aura Restaurant in Nita Lake Lodge, Chef James Olberg keeps menus modern, simple and local, the Canadiana fare pulling in hotel guests and locals alike from cocktail hour onward. We pop into the adjacent Champagne Nail Bar for a bubbly buff and polish, and leave feeling particularly manly.
Village dining doesn’t disappoint either, the regular hotspots serving superb comfort food to line up for. Ditto the cocktail lists, particularly at Pangea Pod Hotel, one of the town’s more affordable yet highly styled digs. Burgers at Stonesedge Kitchen come with an onion ring spiked to the bun. The fish and chips at Beacon Pub have me at “pine-nut panko.” Even a bowl of goulash on the very top of Blackcomb Mountain at Horstman Hut, served in a Styrofoam cup with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy, renders me weak at the knees. And you can’t throw a stone in this town and not hit a plate of Parmesan french fries. I experience total garlic-fry withdrawal for weeks afterwards.
DOUG WALLACE is the editor and publisher of travel resource TravelRight.Today.
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FLASHBACK Dance Of The 41: Police Raid A Mexican Drag Ball (November,17, 1901)
Late in the evening of November 17, 1901 (around three o’clock on the morning of November 18), police raided a private house party in Mexico City’s central Tabacalera neighborhood. At the party, police found 41 men dancing together – about half of them dressed as women.
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The news travelled quickly throughout the country and – without a trial – the men who attended the clandestine drag ball were punished. Some were forced to sweep the streets in their feminine attire. The scandal was famously called “the invention of the homosexuality in Mexico” by prominent writer Carlos Monsiváis, because it was the first time that homosexuality had been spoken about openly in the Mexican media.
Initial reports of the party that night counted 42 men in attendance, but the number was later revised to 41. The 42nd man, as the story goes, was Ignacio de la Torre y Mier, the son-in-law of Mexico’s then President Porfirio Díaz. Rumours endure that his connections to power spared him from suffering the fate and humiliation of his peers. Over time, the number 41 came to carry a stigma in Mexico, even as details of what happened in 1901 were nearly forgotten. For decades, the number 41 was used to accuse men of being effeminate and implicitly homosexual, and people consciously avoided the number, leaving it off street addresses, military and police units, and hotel rooms. In fact, no segment of the army is allowed to be given the unit number 41.
“In Mexico, the number 41 has no validity and is offensive.… The influence of this tradition is so strong that even officialdom ignores the number 41. No division, regiment or battalion of the army is given the number 41. From 40 they progress directly to 42. No payroll has a number 41. Municipal records show no houses with the number 41; if this cannot be avoided, 40 bis is used. No hotel or hospital has a room 41. Nobody celebrates their 41st birthday, going straight from 40 to 42. No vehicle is assigned a number plate with 41, and no police officer will accept a badge with that number.” — Francisco L. Urquizo, Mexican soldier, writer and historian
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